iOS 7 is an important release for the future of Apple’s “i” devices. It is the first major software re-write of the platform since the high-profile departure of Scott Forstall from the company. Is iOS 7 a strong release to help Apple build back up momentum and mind share with the public?
The interface changes can be a bit disorienting for veteran Apple users, but there are some welcome updates. iOS folders allow you to group applications together to save on iPhone\iPad real-estate. In previous iOS versions, there was a limit to how many apps could be grouped. iOS 7 seems to have done away with this limit: In one test, I put 28 apps in the same folder on my iPhone, and the folder would have let me continue to add more if I chose to.
Background images change perspective in response to any movement of the device. Apple also included some dynamic backgrounds, portions of which fade in and out randomly; it is an interesting feature, but I’m not sure how popular it will be with users in the long run.
The search function is no longer relegated to being located to the left of the first screen. By swiping down on your phone’s background, the search bar will appear on any screen, except when the phone is locked.
Swiping up from the bottom of the screen reveals important controls such as the camera, airplane mode, brightness, the audio control menu, and AirPlay. There are additional features such as a flashlight control, timer settings, and the calculator. Swiping down from the top of the screen reveals your calendar as well as any app notifications. All of these functions are accessible when the screen is locked.
My only complaint is the new behavior for accessing and closing background apps, which is awfully similar to Palm’s WebOS implementation: you double press the home screen when the device is unlocked, and it zooms out into tiles of what you were last doing in each app. You can swipe back and forth to choose a background app, and you can swipe an app to the top of the screen to close it. It is a nice implementation, but it is more cumbersome that the previous behavior to close background apps.
The most welcome feature for me, as a commuter, is the Background App Refresh setting. Background processing by iOS apps can quickly drain the iPhone battery. Worse yet, it is hard to identify which apps are the repeat offenders of the power drain. When you go into iOS 7 “Settings”, then “General”, and finally “Background App Refresh,” you not only see which apps are sending information but you can turn off their access as well!
iOS 7 is not perfect, but it is a much needed change to Apple’s mobile devices. Although the original design was revolutionary when it first launched, Apple’s competitors were starting to make the iOS interface look like a relic of the past. Let’s see how the rest of the market responds to Apple’s updates.